Clarence Richmond Wilhoit, 87, died in Florence on Tuesday, January 26th 2010, after a brief illness.
Richmond was born in Charlottesville, Virginia on January 31, 1922. He was the son of the late Clarence Ezekiel and Nancy Belle Fiers Wilhoit. One of eleven children, he was preceded in death by Monty Ray, Louisa, Cecil Thornton, Clarence Jr., E.Q., Nannie, Charlton and Caroline.
At the age of two his family moved to Florence where he attended primary and secondary school, graduating from Florence High School (McClena-ghan) in 1940. In the 1930's Richmond's oldest brother Cecil established the family business, Wilhoit Steel Erectors/Southern Contractors.
Upon graduation Richmond joined the family business as did all of his brothers. At the beginning of World War II the United States military needed shelter for its growing fleet of aircraft. Wilhoit Steel assisted by building many of the armed forces aircraft hangers. Upon construction of aircraft hangers at Gilbert Field in Florence the company project was complete. Each of the Wilhoit brothers enlisted in the U.S. military where they served their country with distinction.
Richmond joined the Army Air Corps attending officer flight training at Texas Tech and was subsequently trained as a bombardier navigator, serving through the war's end. All five brothers and one sister, Charlton, were honored after the war for having the most siblings serving in the war effort in the state of South Carolina. At the war's end Richmond and his five brothers returned to Florence and reestablished the family construction business.
As the business grew, Cecil, Richmond's older brother expanded the business to Columbia during the 1950s, leaving Richmond to operate the Florence office. There he continued to work on projects both local and national in scope and influence. Cape Canaveral was one such ongoing project which included launch pads for the Apollo space program as well as early flights of the Space Shuttle. They also built the world's largest dry dock crane at the Norfolk Shipyard as well as numerous projects with Nucor Steel Corp. around the country. With the death of Cecil in the late 1970s Richmond restructured the family business into what became Millwright Services which continued to work locally and nationally for the next quarter century eventually limiting its scope to local projects at Nucor Steel and Sonoco Paper Products.
At the age of eighty-five, after a career which spanned over seven decades, Richmond completed his work with Millwright Services. Highly respected in the engineering and construction community Richmond's knowledge of steel construction and its many nuances earned the respect of all who knew or worked with him.
He and his business were known for the family motto, "Do the jobs others said could not be done." Though construction was his life's work it was not his life. When not working Richmond was immersed in the community he loved. Richmond was a life long member of the Masons and Shriners, joining at age 21. Locals will remember "Leaping Lena" which Steve Love and Richmond built as a symbol of goodwill, promoting Shriner projects.
Richmond joined First Baptist Church in 1947, where he was an active and devoted member. He served as deacon from the early 1970's onward, always supporting his church. In later years he was a member of The Gourmet Club and The Kingsburg Rod and Gun Club, where he enjoyed a fellowship of friends and the peace of God's nature.
He is survived by his wife of 64 years, Elgiva S. Anderson Wilhoit of the home; two children, Clarence Richmond (Richie) Wilhoit and his wife Ellen of Florence, Norma S. Wilhoit of Johns Island SC; four grandchildren, Richmond T Wilhoit, Eliza Drayton Wilhoit, Christina S.T. Wilhoit, and Scott R. Thomas; two sisters, Mabel McNair of Hartsville SC, and Amorette Turner of Pamplico; and 27 nieces and nephews.
Family and friends are invited to Waters Powell Funeral Home in Florence for visitation Thursday, January 28, 2010, from 6pm to 8pm. The service will be held at First Baptist Church in Florence SC on Friday, January 29, 2010 at 2pm.
Graveside service will follow at Peniel Baptist Church Cemetery on Twin Church Rd., Timmonsville SC.
Past employees of Wilhoit Steel Erectors, Southern Contractors, and Millwright Service of Florence will serve as honorary pallbearers.
Few men are fortunate enough to value and take pride in their life's work, fewer still, leave a legacy that stands well beyond their time, Clarence Richmond Wilhoit, loved by all, found solace in both.
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